Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison trade barbs at first leaders’ debate

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have exchanged verbal blows – with the PM at one point being accused of an “outrageous slur” – at the first leaders’ debate on the campaign trail.

Undecided voters put a number of questions to the leaders at the Brisbane debate on Wednesday night.

It got off to a clean start, with the leaders shaking hands and smiling.

But, at times, it turned into a shouting match with the two prime ministerial hopefuls trying to get the last say.

Here’s what they addressed:

Housing affordability

The first question of the night was on housing affordability from a father who says he is uncertain his two children will be able to enter the housing market.

Morrison acknowledged it is “tougher now” than when he bought a house three decades ago and said the government had enacted policies to combat it.

He pointed to the extension of the first home buyers guarantee scheme in the budget and the HomeBuilder program.

Albanese, meanwhile, said the father’s concern was a “common story”.

“People are worried about whether their kids will ever get into that great Australian dream that I was raised with of owning your own home. That was something that we took for granted.”

He added that rental costs were skyrocketing and needed to be addressed.

Independent commission against corruption

The leaders were asked for their take on the establishment of a commission against corruption, a topic that Albanese has been pushing heavily.

“It’s an issue where we need to restore faith in the political system,” he said.

“Now I think overwhelmingly people go into politics for all the right reasons whether they be Labor, Liberal or minor party people. But the truth is, there’s a stench around a whole range of issues in Canberra.”

Morrison, however, said he doesn’t want to see it turn into a “kangaroo court” and references Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation as NSW premier after she was probed.

Electric vehicles

A voter asked what more could be done to promote the use of electric vehicles.

Albanese said they should be made in Australia.

“We need to do more to create those high-value jobs,” he said.

“I support exporting our resources, but where possible, we should be value-adding here rather than seeing the value add somewhere else, and the jobs created somewhere else, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Morrison retorts that they “are being made here”.

“We’re investing $22 billion between now and 2030 on ensuring that we’re developing the clean energy technology, which includes batteries that will enable us to transition our economy and not just ours, by the way, but the economies in our region as well, to ensure that they can get access to this technology.”


A mother of a four-year-old boy with autism asked what the National Disability Insurance Scheme looks like under the respective leaders.

She asked why some recipients’ were reporting that their funding was cut, to which Morrison said:” We are fully funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“It’s a difficult scheme to manage because every single person who has a disability is different. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to the NDIS.”

He acknowledged that Labor introduced the NDIS but claimed that it was the Liberal government that had to work out how to fund it.

Albanese argued that “Labor does the big reforms”.

“You can’t be scared of the future, you have to shape the future, otherwise the future will shape you.”

Budget repair

With the national debt heading towards $1 trillion, the leaders were asked what they will do to repair the budget.

Morrison said his focus is on getting people into work and off of welfare payments.

“We’ve got people into work, off welfare and into work. That is the major way you turn a budget around as well as making sure you control your expenditure that has risen because it had to, because we all know when we went into the pandemic, we were facing the biggest crisis we had seen since the Great Depression.”

Albanese said he would home in vocational eduction and skills training, adding that the federal government had “a problem with is a waste”.

“There was too much waste there. And this has been a wasteful government.”


The leaders are asked by host Kieran Gilbert about the largest political story of the day – a security deal with the Solomon Islands and China.

Morrison says it isn’t a “policy failure” but rather China “seeking to interfere in the Pacific”.

“This is a very serious issue and one that we’ve been conscious of for a very long time,” he says.

Morrison said that Labor had taken “China’s side” in the issue. Albanese described that as an “outrageous slur”.

“China has changed. It’s more aggressive. It’s more active in the region, and we need to understand that and respond to it,” Albanese said.

“They’re not really stepping up this isn’t so much a Pacific step up – it’s a Pacific stuff up.”

Closing statements

Morrison opened his closing address by thanking the crowd for their questions.

He says that the election is a “choice” and that the budget indicates the future is in safe hands with his government.

“This election is a choice and these processes are important to help people make their choice,” he said.

“But fundamentally, I really believe this election is all about the economy that you, and your family, and your communities will live in for the next 10 years.”

Albanese also thanks the crowd, Gilbert and Morrison for the debate.

He says that the Coalition government has been in government for a decade and is shooting for a second but says it has no drive.

“I want an economy that sees wages being lifted. I want people to enjoy a higher standard of living. I want us to aspire and be as optimistic as we should be as a country.”